I received an update from British Midland International (bmi) this morning on their acquisition by British Airways and move out of Star Alliance. Most of the news was expected, but I did learn two new things: first, bmi Diamond Club miles will transfer to British Airways Avios at a 1:1 basis. Second, and more importantly, Diamond Club and Executive Club members will soon be able to transfer miles between accounts.
This transfer feature will not be available until 03 July online, hinting that there will be no opportunity to transfer BA Avios to Diamond Club in order to book Star Alliance flights, but that remains unclear--it is plausible that transfers could be available over the phone earlier. Should that be the case, BA Avios could be used to book Star Alliance awards--an interesting proposition, especially when thinking about the current American Express 50% BA transfer bonus. I have to assume too that after 31 May the Diamond Club program, which apparently will remain, will transition to a BA-style segment-based redemption chart--but that remains to be seen as well. I also have to think BA would not want Avios used for Star Alliance redemption, so I am just dreaming above.
Remember that one-way business class tickets from Central and North America to Europe are currently bookable for as little as 37.5K bmi miles + GBP140! Additional fuel surcharges will apply, but choose US Airways for your transatlantic flights and you can avoid those too. That still makes these Diamond Club points quite valuable and unless you have specific travel plans requiring OneWorld airlines, I would encourage you to burn your Diamond Club points as soon as possible.
The big questions, unanswered in the letter below, are 1.) whether non-online transfers between programs will be available earlier, 2.) whether this transfer will be free and unlimited--like during the Continental/United merger when we could instantly transfer points for no fee between United Mileage Plus and Continental OnePass accounts and 3.) whether bmi's generous award chart will remain until 31 May or whether they will adopt an Avios-type scheme immediately.
As I hinted above, I strongly doubt BA would leave bmi's generous award chart in space beyond 31 May.
Here's the full text of the letter I received from bmi:
I'm writing to advise you of some important changes to the Diamond Club programme following the sale of bmi to IAG, the owner of British Airways, on 20 April 2012.
As a result, there are some key changes to your Diamond Club membership, which I would like to outline below, which also includes an invitation from British Airways.
- Announcement of bmi's exit from Star Alliance
- A new partnership with British Airways
- Business as usual for Diamond Club
1. bmi's exit from Star Alliance
I'd firstly like to advise that from 20 April bmi will no longer be a member of Star Alliance.
However, you will still be able to enjoy the following Star Alliance benefits associated with your membership tier level until 31 May 2012.
- You will continue to earn membership status miles and earn and spend destinations miles on bmi and Star Alliance carriers (excluding Lufthansa Group airlines) until 31 May 2012
- For all Star Alliance carriers you will also be able to take advantage of your bmi and Star Alliance status benefits, including lounge access, priority check-in and priority boarding until 31 May 2012
- From 1 June 2012 any benefits associated with your tier membership and the ability to earn status miles and earn and spend destinations miles on Star Alliance airlines will end
- Star Alliance award bookings made before 31 May 2012 will be honoured
For further information including changes to award bookings, retrospective claims and award flight bookings please visit flybmi.com
2. A new partnership with British Airways
We're pleased to announce that Diamond Club members will benefit from a new partnership with British Airways from 20 April 2012.
- All members will be able to earn destinations miles on BA, for flights taken from 20 April 2012, and we will shortly introduce the option to spend your destinations miles on BA award flights
- From today, Diamond Club Gold and Silver members will be able to access the British Airways lounges at London Heathrow and London Gatwick, when flying with bmi or British Airways - please present your Diamond Club Gold or Silver card on arrival to gain access
As part of the transition of bmi into British Airways, from 1 May 2012 British Airways is inviting you, as a Diamond Club member, to also join the Executive Club at your equivalent tier status level. Diamond Club Gold customers will be invited to become Gold members of the Executive Club and Silver members to become Silver, which will be in addition to your Diamond Club membership. Further details will follow shortly.
You will also be able to transfer your destinations miles to Executive Club Avios points at a rate of 1:1. British Airways will also be offering Executive Club customers the ability to transfer from Executive Club Avios points into destinations miles at a rate of 1:1. For example 100 destinations miles could be transferred into 100 Avios points and vice versa.
We are creating an online tool that will allow Diamond Club and Executive Club customers to undertake transfers, which will be available from 3 July 2012. We will contact you nearer that date to explain how the tool will work and how to access it.
3. Business as usual for Diamond Club
Although today we are announcing a number of changes to the programme, we would like to assure you that it is business as usual for Diamond Club, including members who have a bmi Credit Card Account with MBNA.
We very much appreciate your loyalty to bmi and hope that you continue to enjoy the benefits of Diamond Club membership.
For more information on the changes please visit flybmi.com
We look forward to welcoming you onboard again soon.
Diamond Club Manager
Stay tuned for more--we'll have to wait and see exactly how this transfer program emerges. Depending on the outcome, the British Airways Chase Visa card and the Visa Chase Sapphire Preferred card may become even valuable.
As expected, the letter also spoke of a status match to British Airways and I'll write up a separate post on that once more info emerges.